Senate panel gives green light to transportation finance bill

BATON ROUGE — A bill designed to raise funds that would be used for forgotten road projects in the state cleared the Senate Finance Committee here Monday and moves to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 555 by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte and committee chairman, creates the Louisiana Economic Financing Corp. Its purpose would be to finance, purchase, own and manage the state’s allocation for Deepwater Horizon economic damage revenues.

Those revenues are BP oil spill money. The total BP settlement was $6.8 billion to Louisiana over 18 years. Natural resources damages total $5 billion to be used for coastal restoration, clean water, $787 million, and state economic damage claims, $1 billion.

The state is receiving $800 million in $53.3 million annual payments for 15 years. The state used an upfront payment of $200 million to help balance the budget in 2016.

The LaFleur measure is expected to produce about $600 million that could be bonded out and used for those forgotten road projects. The annual bond payments would come from the $53.3 million annual state economic damages payments. 

The bonds are called GARVEE bonds (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) bonds. States use them under the guidelines of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995. The goal of the program is to speed up transportation projects.

The corporation created by the legislation would consist of the governor, the state treasurer, the attorney general, the president of the Senate, and speaker of the House of Representatives, or their designees, and seven members appointed by the governor with one member appointed from each of the seven congressional districts. 

An amendment to LaFleur’s measure would appropriate $100 million for a TIMED project approved in 1988. It involves improvements to Louisiana Highway 3241 from Interstate 12 to Bush (Bogalusa).

Another $1 million would be used to finance a program that would keep a full-time student in high school in the foster care program until he or she reaches age 21 or completes high school.

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